2 Ki 2:1-15 ESV
Ps 110: 1-7 ESV
Acts 1:1-11 ESV
Luke 24:44-53 ESV
IntroductionThe ascension of Jesus is the climax of his earthly life for it is the point when his humanity is taken up into God’s home in heaven. The ascension completes the resurrection and commences Christ’s exalted victorious reign over evil powers and his prayers as High Priest1)See Biblical References Acts 2:36 ESV; Rom 8:33 ESV; 1 Cor 15:23-28 ESV; Heb 7:25 ESV.
From heaven, Jesus is head of the Church and filling everything with his presence for us2)See Biblical ReferencesEph 1:23 ESV; Col 2:9-10 ESV. Only as the ascended Lord could Jesus send the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, which we will talk about next week3)See Biblical References Acts 2:33 ESV; Eph 4:8 ESV.
In heaven, Jesus still has a real human body. When the disciples actually saw someone, who looked like them, ascend in a cloud into heaven they had an insight into their own future glorious existence with God. Whilst our minds cannot possibly grasp the greatness of these things our Old Testament readings can help our understanding.
Old Testament Figures
Psalm 110:1 ESV, “The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.””.
This is the most quoted Old Testament scripture in the New Testament4)See Biblical References e.g. Matt 22:4426:64 ESV; Acts 2:34-35 ESV; Rom 8:34 ESV; 1 Cor 15:25 ESV; Heb 1:13 ESV because it tells us that as a perfected human being Jesus now shares God’s rule over the world. Strictly speaking when things don’t go right for you, don’t blame “God”, whoever he is, blame King Jesus.
Get angry with the person who on our account experienced our trials, tests, weaknesses, hopes and fears, who understands what we are going through. Even as he exerts his Lordship over all things (Acts 10:36 ESV) Jesus understands our fragile humanity, he is our sympathetic heavenly High Priest praying for us constantly5)See Biblical References Heb 4:15 ESV; Heb 7:25 ESV, praying for us NOW.
Our second Old Testament reading speaks of a very special relationship between the prophet Elijah and his successor Elisha. “Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please let there be a double share of your spirit on me.” (In the Old Testament a “double share” was the inheritance a father reserved for his first-born son (Deut 21:17 ESV), Elisha desires to inherit the presence and power of the Lord he saw in Elijah. He wants to be the firstborn prophetic son.) vs.10 (Elijah) said, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, you will have your request….” vs.11 And as they… went on… suddenly chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. vs.12 And Elisha saw it and he cried, “My father, my father! I see the chariots and charioteers of Israel!”!” And he saw him no more.” (2 Ki 2:9-12 ESV)
“ “My father, my father!” ”, is passionate ground-breaking tender-hearted language, and it’s drawn out of Elisha’s heart because in seeing Elijah ascend he knows he’s the spiritual son of the older prophet and that the glorious presence and power of God seen in his spiritual father will from now on be manifest in his life.
This story is a prophetic sign of the disciples inheriting the spiritual ministry of Jesus for them, like Elisha, saw their Master ascend in glory into heaven. As it says at the start of Acts:
The Father Acts
“And when he (Jesus) had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.” (Acts 1:9 ESV). Jesus is “taken up” by the power of God the Father who proudly exalts his Son as a human being into his own glory.
By ascension, the all proud Father takes the Son up into his closest heart enveloping him in his love with the glory that was theirs “from before the foundation of the world” (John 17:5 ESV).
The New Testament writers tell us Jesus is now before the “face of God” (Heb 9:24 ESV) and “in the bosom of the Father” (John 1:18 ESV). His sacrificial obedience as a human being has been rewarded with the unlimited intimacy of indwelling the Father’s heart. It is the ascension which makes sense of some of Jesus’ difficult sayings.
Here is a scripture from John which was a favourite in the Pentecostal church I used to attend, ““Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12 ESV).
The most exciting part of this scripture isn’t the promise that the Church will do greater miracles than Christ but that this will happen because he went back to the Father for us.
In another place Jesus says, “ “If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.” (John 14:28 ESV). The Father was greater than the Son in his mortal earthly humanity, but as ascended Jesus is equal in power with the all-powerful Father(Phil 2:9 ESV).
Remember what Jesus said to Mary she tried to hold onto his resurrected body outside the empty tomb, “ “Don’t cling to me, for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”” (John 20:17 ESV).
There are two marvellous truths expressed in Jesus’ words. Jesus is a brother who has gone before us, and his Father is now our Father.
A preacher told this story about how knowing the ascended Lord overcomes our fear of death. Back in the days when travel was by the sea a young boy who had been orphaned longed to travel from the U.K. to Hawaii.
He was very nervous about travelling so far alone. But when people asked him about why he was so determined to go he said “Oh? Don’t you know? My older brother is there.” He didn’t want to travel to the unknown land for the palms, tropical weather, or the island songs…. The Christian’s true motive for wanting to go to heaven isn’t to arrive at a “happy place”, it’s because our older brother Jesus (Rom 8:29 ESV) is there preparing for us a place in his Father’s house (John 14:1-2 ESV).
The ascension testifies to us that the Father of Jesus is full “Our Father” (Matt 6:9 ESV). Most of us are so used to “Father” language around the Church that we miss how radical a thing it is to know God as Father.
A Muslim lady who was amazingly converted called her book, “I Dared to Call Him Father”.
Islam flatly denies the loving Fatherhood of God, and in Judaism, “Father” is only a symbolic way of talking. To know God as Father is a matter of the heart.
I ran into a young believer recently who was confused about God’s will for his life. Since I believe that when we have an intimate relationship with God the Father we know his will6)See Biblical ReferencesJohn 4:34 ESV; John 5:30 ESV; John 6:38 ESV, I asked this chap who he normally prayed to e.g. “God”, “Lord” “Jesus”, “Holy Spirit”.
When he said, “the Father”, I was quite puzzled. But when I asked him why he prayed to the Father he explained that someone had told him that’s how he should pray.
He was calling God “Father” but it was not coming from his heart. So I laid hands on him and prayed he’d have a heart revelation that Jesus had ascended into heaven to send the Spirit into his heart so he could cry out “Abba! Father!”7)See Biblical References Rom 8:15 ESV; Gal 4:6 ESV and know that God was blessed to be his Father.
Jesus is in Charge
Jesus is much more useful to us in heaven than if he were still on earth. He came down from heaven to share our mortal life and he went back to heaven so we might share his immortal life.
The New Testament is emphatic about this, “God, being rich in mercy… made us alive together with Christ… and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places” (Eph 2:4-6 ESV), vs.1 “seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. vs.2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. vs.3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col 3:1-3 ESV).
The key to triumphing over the trials of this world (Rom 5:17 ESV) with love, joy and patience is to receive from the life of the ascended victorious Jesus. He will help us, he will empower us by his Spirit, he will never ever fail us.
The visibility of the ascension was a sign for all the followers of Jesus of his love and power for us. The ascension brought about for humanity a new revelation of the identity of God, Jesus, who is both God and one of us, now defines who God is for us.
John Calvin speaks pastorally in saying:
Since the character of Jesus and the character of the Father are identical we can trust God for anything and everything. how embarrassing it is when we fail so often to do this.
Our Communion service starts with an exhortation, I will say, “Lift up your hearts” and you will respond…“We lift them to the Lord”.
The Lord to whom we lift our hearts is the heavenly ascended Jesus, a human being who is sovereign over the whole universe and over every detail of our lives, how wonderful. He is ruling for our good, in every circumstance8)See Biblical References Eph 1:22 ESV; Rom 8:28 ESV.
As his humanity has been taken up into the eternity of God so the time will come when ours will be, such is the all-loving character of God’s power for us.
Given that Jesus has fully triumphed as a human being for us why the hell are we frightened to tell people about him, why do we fear suffering, sickness, ageing, death, why do poverty and rejection scare us?
Let’s yield every part of our weak and impoverished lives, our families, finances, time and talents to his heavenly glory.
Let’s lift up our hearts to the ascended Lord and look forward to the day when he will come again to take us to himself, that where he is, we might be also9)See Biblical References John 14:3 ESV; John 17:24 ESV. And in doing so we surely will find that our final home is where he is, in the heart of the Father.
MESSAGE, DELIVERED: Date 02 nd June 2019 Location:
Author: Dr. John Yates
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References [ + ]
|1.||↑||See Biblical References Acts 2:36 ESV; Rom 8:33 ESV; 1 Cor 15:23-28 ESV; Heb 7:25 ESV|
|2.||↑||See Biblical ReferencesEph 1:23 ESV; Col 2:9-10 ESV|
|3.||↑||See Biblical References Acts 2:33 ESV; Eph 4:8 ESV|
|4.||↑||See Biblical References e.g. Matt 22:4426:64 ESV; Acts 2:34-35 ESV; Rom 8:34 ESV; 1 Cor 15:25 ESV; Heb 1:13 ESV|
|5.||↑||See Biblical References Heb 4:15 ESV; Heb 7:25 ESV|
|6.||↑||See Biblical ReferencesJohn 4:34 ESV; John 5:30 ESV; John 6:38 ESV|
|7.||↑||See Biblical References Rom 8:15 ESV; Gal 4:6 ESV|
|8.||↑||See Biblical References Eph 1:22 ESV; Rom 8:28 ESV|
|9.||↑||See Biblical References John 14:3 ESV; John 17:24 ESV|